Hello, It’s Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie has author Chris Epting (James Dean Died Here; Led Zeppelin Crashed Here; Marilyn Monroe Dyed Here, Roadside Baseball, Madonna’s Bra, Einstein’s Brain, etc.) relating 40 years of his most treasured memories and sharing some truly spectacular I-Can’t-Believe-This-Is-Happening moments.
Beginning during his adolescence in ‘70s New York, through his time as an ad-man and to his current career as an author, Hello, It’s Me tells tales of Epting’s life-long love affair with all sorts of culture and entertainment, and it does so with the sort of excitement that can only come from someone truly passionate about these things. As he regales readers with stories of the cultural events and celebrity interactions that have shaped his life, his enduring enthusiasm for his subjects is clear. In fact, when he talks of certain pivotal people, that enthusiasm becomes something like affectionate obsession, and that level of love is what makes this book such fun.
Whether he’s relating how the song “Brandy” helped him bond with his sister in 1972, or recalling the times when he would take groceries to author Quentin Crisp and listen to his tales, whether he’s remembering his first all night phone conversation with a girl or recounting how he and his high school friends would camp out every week in front of Keith Richards’ New York home hoping to catch a glimpse of the guitarist, Epting’s fondness for these people comes across in a way that everyone who has ever really connected with a song, an artist or a hero will instantly understand.
Here is a man who wears his fan status like a badge. The book’s title is taken from the song by Todd Rundgren, who is Epting’s “second favorite” musical artist. His favorite is The Rolling Stones, as evidenced by the aforementioned teenage stalking spree and several stories about the band or its members over the years (including one of my favorites, where Epting practically relives, in feverish detail, his very first Stones concert in 1975, complete with a newspaper photo of himself in the audience as Jagger dowses the crowd with a bucket of water).
Many of the events Epting shares in Hello, It’s Me are celebrity encounters. Comedians, rock stars, sports figures, literary giants, leading men… he’s met them all. While it is wonderful to read of these experiences and interactions from the point of view of a diehard fan, what really makes the telling special is the sense of an awareness at the time that these would be memories of magical moments far beyond the rush of brushes with fame. Epting really seems to have led a charmed life of being in the right place at the right time to meet celebrities (getting a “Hi pal!” from Paul Newman on a plane during a childhood family vacation, meeting Norman Mailer in 1982 in a movie theater, running into Alfred Hitchcock—literally—in a hotel lobby), but also of having the presence of mind to realize precisely how lucky he is (having a sneaky drink with Ron Wood and Rod Stewart in a broom closet backstage at the MTV Video Music Awards, spotting—and stalking—Mick Jagger and Jerry Hall on Fifth Avenue during a lunch break from the ad agency, being approached on Hollywood Boulevard by no less a legend than Jack Lemmon just as he was explaining to his visiting aunt that, unfortunately, there aren’t any really stars to be seen in Hollywood!).
The combination makes Hello, It’s Me: Dispatches from a Pop Culture Junkie gleeful and engaging reading, there’s no pretension to Epting’s stories. He’s simply sharing a life filled with things he enjoys, and it’s obviously just as much of a joy for him to do so as it is for us to read about it.